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FG going to need a poll to sort out contenders for their election ticket

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: {J}

One of the constituencies which will stick out like a sore thumb in Fine Gael plans for the next General Election will be Galway West – where Enda Kenny will be insisting on the candidates delivering a second Dail seat, as part of Fine Gael plans to lead the next government.

Last time I spoke to him briefly on the issue, Kenny didn’t want to discuss it in detail, but he made it quite clear that Galway West – which has returned only one seat out of five in the past 28 years – would be expected to bring in a second Fine Gael Dail Deputy.

Just for the moment, it appears there won’t be any particular hurry now on sorting out the Fine Gael ticket in Galway West …… well, things have gone very quiet indeed in the weeks since the Budget, and the consensus appears to be that, unless there is some very unexpected development, then this line-up of Fianna Fail, the Green Party, with the support of a key number of Independents, could be in power for the long haul …. right up to 2012, if they can possibly manage it.

There has been an extraordinary Fine Gael quiet since the Budget – we can only surmise that FG, who would have agreed with the overall spending cuts figure of €4billion, want to ‘keep the head down’ so that Fianna Fail will take the full brunt of cuts in areas like public salaries, child allowances, carer allowances, payments to the blind. In other words, that FF pay the price for the economic catastrophe which befell the country during their watch.

However, I’ve been writing this column since 1977 and one of the things I have learnt is, ‘don’t write off Fianna Fail.’ Could they yet escape the anger, or will it simmer on against them?

What Fianna Fail and the Green Party will be hoping is that, as time passes – and if the economy were to start to improve – FF and The Greens might just see some rebound in their dreadful poll ratings.

Certainly, they will want to get back from the awful pasting they took in the Local and the European Elections last June – when the Fianna Fail vote fell 10% to 25%, a level of support at which seats in both Galway West (Eamon O Cuiv and Frank Fahey) and Galway East (Noel Treacy and Michael Kitt), could be potentially vulnerable.

But, while Fine Gael can now boast that they are the biggest party in the country – 338 local councillors to 213 for FF – Galway West is a major contradiction of that trend. In the 2007 General Election, FG only got 20 per cent of the first preferences. It was an increase of over 3%, but with a level of support like that, Enda Kenny could kiss goodbye to his hopes of gaining a seat in Galway.

The last time FG won two seats out of five in Galway West, Garret FitzGerald was leading the party, John Donnellan and Fintan Coogan were the FG front runners, and they won two seats with 34% of the first preferences in 1982.

By 1987, everything had changed. The outgoing FG-Labour Government which had been led by Garret FitzGerald, was unpopular …… and there had been a sea change in Galway West where Bobby Molloy had left FF to join the Progressive Democrats. Not alone did Molloy take a hunk of the FF vote with him, he also sliced into the FG vote on the basis of his personal popularity. The FG vote fell over 16% to 18.2% and has never really recovered from there in the intervening 28 years.

West Galway is unusually competitive in that there are TDs from FF, FG, Labour and an Independent (Noel Grealish – former PD) returned. But a performance such as that of 2007, would be next to worthless to Enda Kenny in the next General Election. In a five-seater constituency, a quota is just over 16%, so to be even in the hunt for that second seat, Fine Gael would need at 30% to be in with a shout.


For more read page 14 of this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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